This may finally be the year Leo wins an Oscar.
I know, I know, Leonardo DiCaprio has been nominated countless times already for the best Actor category but the honor remains elusive until this very day because of one circumstance or the other. but let me just say this up front. He deserves it for this movie, if only for scenes with his on screen son Forrest Goodluck, alone. The rest of the movie deserves accolades as well.
Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is part of an American party of hunters involved in the pelting trade. After his group is ambushed by Native American Indians who want to use their merchandise to fund their own journey to find the kidnapped daughter of their chieftain, Glass’ party is forced to trek through the forest and find their way back home the hard way. After Glass is savaged by a bear, he is betrayed and left for dead by Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), and it is up to him to survive the wilderness to exact his revenge.
Viewers who are expecting a typical survival movie in The Revenant will be surprised to find that the movie is so much more than a frontier drama. It has its fair share of grossness, blood and guts, gritty shooting scenes, dramatic moments and some surreal elements that make it a much more interesting film than others in its genre.
I have to credit first and foremost the direction and the cinematography in this film. Each scene is framed perfectly and showcases the majesty and beauty of the great outdoors despite the direness of the lead hero’s situation. Even during the times that Leo’s life is placed in grave danger, the scenery still manages to elicit awe because it was just so darned beautiful.
In terms of storytelling, Director Alejando Innaritu (Birdman) successfully manages to capture the viewers’ attention from the very first sequence, establishing the type of relationship Glass has with his son Hawk, and what type of personality the members of the party have.
Straight off the bat, I was drawn to the father and son relationship. There is a depth and an intensity to the bond between Glass and Hawk (Goodluck) and their repeated utterance of the words “I am here,” to each other in Native American dialect. It was so moving because while there were times that Glass treats his son gruffly, he manages to convey his unconditional love and pride for his son with every scene. This was reciprocated by Goodluck, gesture by gesture, to the credit of the acting newcomer. Audience members can’t help but feel the love and the desperation that came with each word, with each touch.
Because this was in essence a survival movie, Dicaprio spent the better part of the movie grunting as he was trying to survive his injuries, fueled only by his wits and his determination to avenge his injustice. I guess the mark of his acting prowess was his ability make the audience feel each nuance, each emotion and his despair without having ton utter actual words.
The movie clocks in at 156 minutes and majority of this was devoted to watching Glass battle the elements, flee from danger and device his plan for revenge, and to a point, it does get tedious. However, Innaritu was able to compensate for the lulls but putting Leo in suspenseful predicaments that further imperil his life, as if being mauled by a bear was not enough.
Props to the CGI and the special effects team that the worked on the movie, each death felt like a statement, every severed hand, every decapitated body flawlessly executed. It could even rival a horror movie. At times, the action felt like a war movie in terms of intensity and this was owed mainly to the great job of the team.
All in all, more than a frontier story, the film tackles injustice and family love. It is also a testament to a person’s strength of spirit and resilience to achieve a goal, and serves to inspire those who are experiencing even the most oppressing circumstance that there is hope in the kindness of others, in divine justice and in humanity after all. It was quiet and subtle but the build up leads to a satisfying climax that was well worth the two hour wait.